India is moving in the right direction but Indians need to work harder for at least a decade to eradicate poverty as well as provide education and healthcare to the millions on the other side of the divide, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in his speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort to mark the nation’s 60th Independence Day on Wednesday.
The Prime Minister, however, did not refer to the controversial Indo-US nuclear deal in his 40-minute address. Or Pakistan. An official later hinted Singh, who had moved across from the other side of Punjab into the Indian side at Partition, clearly intended to look at India and her future, free from the ghosts of the past.
“We are a nation of young people. Once unleashed, the energy of our youth will drive India onto a new growth path. I assure you that for each one of you…the best is yet to come,” he promised the youth who were going to script India’s ambitious growth story.
To ensure benefit of growing economy reaching young Indians, Prime Minister Singh outlined an ambitious plan for skill up-gradation and quality education for all. Singh announced opening of 6,000 new high quality schools, one in each block of the country, to set standards for other schools in the region.
He also assured the states for opening 370 new colleges, especially in districts where enrolment is low. “I am sure that we can ensure at least a fifth of our children go to college as compared to one-tenth now,” he said.
PM Singh, however, admitted that the university system had been relatively neglected in the recent years but said the government is now ready with the plan to open 30 new Central Universities, thereby having at least one central university in each state.
In his address, Singh laid focus on both secondary and higher education, called malnutrition a “national shame” and described the welfare of farmers as the core of all concerns. But he made it clear that industrialisation held the key to generating employment opportunities for India’s growing young population.
“We have been slow in taking some steps; we have dithered at times and stumbled some times… We have moved forward in the many battles against poverty, ignorance and disease. But can we say we have won the war,” he asked.
The PM unveiled schemes to pump in money into agriculture, education, healthcare and social security for the vulnerable. But the emphasis was on consolidating the steps already taken; through Bharat Nirman, universalising secondary education to absorb millions of additional students coming out of primary schools and pushing up the quality of the higher education system to make India’s young employable by sectors outside agriculture.
“Remember, there is no developing country anywhere in the world that is not an industrial economy. Industrialisation is critical for progress,” he emphasised, promising to pursue policies promoting rapid industrialisation.
Acknowledging that the transition from agrarian society to industrial economy was difficult, Singh said it was the government’s duty to see that people who lost land to industrialisation did not lose livelihoods. The PM promised that the national policy for rehabilitation and resettlement would fulfil this societal obligation towards people displaced by industrialisation.